Three things to know about tequila and mezcal
Ed Draves is the tequila and mezcal duty expert at the Premier Group; he reviews both spirits for the blog, Dave Miller’s Mexico.
The production process
“Mezcal is probably the most ‘wine-like’ spirit, not only in the way that it’s made with the fermentation but the way that it expresses where it’s from. Tequila and mezcal, especially, can be very complex on their own. The way the agave plant grows—for example, a Weber Blue or an espadine—takes between seven to nine years to mature from the time it’s a little planting until the sugars are mature enough to harvest. Over the course of that time, theses plants acquire different flavors from the environment the same way a grape does in the wine process, except the agave plants have more years to acquire those things.”
The worm in the bottle
“There are different legends and stories about this practice. One explanation was adding it so that you can differentiate mezcal from tequila, but nobody really knows for sure. You won’t find worms in every mezcal. There are different theories about that, but most of the better mezcals don’t have the worm (or anything else) in them. We sell one that has a scorpion in it. There is an artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca, the Reposado, where they do put the worm (or gusano) in it. It does add just a little bit of flavor, a little bit of earthiness to it. It’s just a personal preference, but a lot of the better ones don’t have anything in them at all.”
Is the lime, salt, and doing a shot really necessary?
“The salt and citrus can sometimes benefit and really go together, but a well-made or artisanal tequila or mezcal is really made to be sipped. I enjoy sipping mezcal or tequila the way that I would sip a fine wine, gathering the flavors and figuring out what I’ve tasted. Some of my best times are being with my friends from Mexico just sitting around and spending a half hour or forty-five minutes with one glass, sipping and discussing the different flavors and nuances that we’re getting.”